Amazon announced its entry into the video game engine market. The company revealed Lumberyard, its own 3D game engine designed to provide triple-A level development tools, at a much cheaper price point than other game engines. The company said that Lumberyard is completely free to use. There are no subscription fees, you don’t have to pay for a seat license, and Amazon is not asking for a portion of sales in the future. Amazon will make its money when the integrated AWS cloud service features are used.
“Many of the world's most popular games are powered by AWS's technology infrastructure platform," said Mike Frazzini, Vice President of Amazon Games. “When we’ve talked to game developers, they've asked for a game engine with the power and capability of leading commercial engines, but that's significantly less expensive, and deeply integrated with AWS for the back-end and Twitch for the gamer community. We're excited to deliver that for our game developers today with the launch of Amazon Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift."
It may be free, but don’t discount Lumberyard as a serious contender. The graphics engine is based on Crytek’s CryEngine and has all the advanced features you would need to create “near-photorealistic environments and stunning real-time effects.” Lumberyard offers physically based shaders, dynamic global illumination, vegetation tools and a whole slew of other top tier features to help create stunning visuals.
Amazon included all sorts of tools within Lumberyard. For example, Geppetto is Lumberyard’s character tool, which combines “animation, attachments, and physics simulations with blendshape, blendspace, and animation layering,” and Mannequin is Lumberyard’s integrated animation tool, which features “animation sequencing, transitions, ragdoll physics” and other options. GridMate is the integrated networking subsystem, which Amazon said will help build games that have “efficient bandwidth usage and low-latency communications.” Lumberyard also includes a free version for Audiokinetic’s Wwise LTX sound engine and authoring tool.
Amazon has included a drag and drop visual scripting tool with Lumberyard that lets designers with little-to-no engineering experience build games with cloud connected features. Amazon said you can simply drop in features such as “community news feeds, daily gifts, or server-side combat resolution.”
For multiplayer games, Amazon introduced Amazon GameLift. This feature lets developers deploy their game through Amazon Web Services (AWS), and it will constantly monitor server capacity and scale up as needed. You are able to set the maximum number of servers that can be used, but GameLift will dynamically determine how many need to be used at any given time. This allows games to scale as needed. Amazon said the fee for AWS services comes out to $1.50 for every 1,000 daily active users connected.
“Amazon has been a great partner and we are deeply excited about both Amazon Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift,” said Josh Atkins, Vice President of Creative Development, 2K Games. “The integration of a fantastic game engine with amazing cloud services presents a wonderful opportunity for both independent developers and established publishers.”
Amazon’s Lumberyard engine also features direct integration with Twitch.tv. Lumberyard features ChatPlay, which enables Twitch viewers to “directly impact the game they are watching in real-time.” Using the visual scripting tool, developers can create interactive features for Twitch viewers to become more engaged. Amazon said an example would be to create a chat command for viewers that could drop grenades on the broadcaster. Amazon said it would also be possible to allow viewers to control the movement of NPC characters.
Lumberyard features Twitch JoinIn, which allows broadcasters to send invites to viewers to have them join in on the game play. With a single click to a link in the Twitch chat, a fan can be brought directly into the game he or she was watching.
Amazon also noted that Lumberyard allows developers to integrate parts of the engine editor into their games, opening up the possibility for plenty of user-generated content, such as character models, or complete mods.
Amazon released the beta version of Lumberyard today. Check the Lumberyard website to download a copy of the engine, or to learn more about it.